Although the Toyota Camry seems like a car model that has been around for ages, it has actually only been on the market since the early 1980s. With the Toyota Camry's release, it launched one of the longest running debates in automobile history: should car buyers choose a Toyota Camry or the similarly equipped Honda Accord? Both are classified as mid-size family cars with similar body styles and specs. However, Toyota has remained competitive from year to year by adding more room, colors, and trim levels to the Camry. One of the most impressive feats of the Toyota Camry: being the bestselling car in the United States for the past 14 years. Since the latest Camry models have also received the award for Best Buy Award Finalist from Kelley Blue Book and was honored with a 5-Star Overall Safety Rating from NHTSA, the car is expected to retain its popularity for the foreseeable future.
The origin of the Camry can be traced back to Toyota's Celica. The Celica Camry was a late 1970s, early 1980s car that added a four-door body type to the Celica, but otherwise bore little resemblance to either the Celica or the soon to be released Camry. The official Toyota Camry launched into production in March of 1982 with both gas and diesel engines a part of its initial release. The design was less compact than the majority of Toyota's lineup with an expansive wheelbase of 102 inches. This design was meant to appear to the American public who preferred larger automobiles. The United States began selling Camrys in 1983 and although it remained popular stateside, sales for the model lagged in Japan and Australia.
The exterior was considered utilitarian by most standards, but the interior specs impressed the car buying public. It came outfitted with a 2.0-liter engine with 92 horsepower. This was a more powerful engine than the base engine that came equipped on the Honda Accord. Buyers could choose between the sedan or hatchback trims along with the luxury LE version. Upgrades for the LE trim included intermittent wipers, premium stereo system, tilt wheel, and electric mirrors. The design for the Camry remained stagnant for five years before receiving a complete overhaul in 1987.
Keeping in line with the idea that the Camry was an affordable family car, the second generation release that came in 1987 included a station wagon version while removing the poorly received hatchback type. As an upgrade from the front-wheel drive system, an all-wheel drive system option was introduced. The 1987 model year was also the first time a V6 engine with 160 horsepower was made available for the Camry. Another improvement made was dual overhead cams. Later upgrades for the second generation Camry included anti-lock brakes and a knock sensor.
The body type was the central difference in the newer Toyota Camry. The Camry was less boxy with a sleeker profile. The wheelbase was the same, but the body was wider and longer than before. The model had rounded edges and a sportier, lowered hardtop. Some trim levels also included a curved hood that partially concealed the windshield wipers.
Although sales were solid for the second generation, a complete design overhaul was done by Toyota in 1992. This year was also the first year that the Camry made "Car and Driver" magazine's 10 Best Cars list. The Camry became even longer and wider while maintaining the same height as the previous incarnations. The base engine was expanded to 2.2-liter 130 horsepower while the V6 included a 3-liter engine with 185 horsepower. The fact that the Camry could go from zero to sixty miles per hour in less than ten seconds became a key selling point. To appeal even more to drivers who wanted a sportier (but budget-friendly) automobile, the SE trim level had a rear spoiler, stronger suspension, and bigger tires.
Toyota set a precedent with releasing a new iteration of the Camry every five years and continued the trend by introducing the latest generation in 1997. Although a coupe was offered in the previous generation along with the station wagon, both body types were dropped from the lineup. The sporty SE was also laid to the wayside with the Camry only coming in the CE (base), LE (mid-level), and XLE (fully-loaded luxury model). The only manual transmission made available was through the V6 version of the CE. Antilock brakes and traction control became standard inclusions in most versions of the Camry. In 1999, Toyota brought the sporty version back through the two-door coupe Solara. The Solara would stay a part of the Camry lineup for the next 10 years. The Solara had a tighter suspension, rear spoilers, and 16-inch alloy wheels. There was also the option to have the Solara as a convertible with a power soft top.
The later 1990s Camry had upgrades such as CD/cassette radio systems, high-impact bumpers, and daytime running lights. Exterior changes included chrome-lined grille, larger taillights, and two-tone paint treatments. The public evidently liked what they were seeing because 1997 was the year that the Camry first became the bestselling car in the United States.
In 2002, Toyota wanted the Camry to became a head turner and chose a more elegant, refined body style type. More inches were added to the wheelbase along with a height increase. Trunk size became roomier with a full two feet added. The V6 was fine-tuned to release fewer emissions as environmental concerns about car emissions grew. The base CE model was dropped from the lineup since very few drivers were interested in purchasing vehicles without air conditioning or manual windows and door locks. The V6 engine had an automatic transmission while the four-cylinder engine offered buyers the choice between automatic or manual gearboxes. In 2006, the V6 engine size was increased to 3.3-liter with 225 hp. In 2004, a Limited Edition model came onto the market with a crystal white color option, foglights, and a fawn-colored interior.
The 2002 Camry rated poorly for side impact crashes. However, once optional airbags were introduced in 2004, crash test ratings improved for the vehicle.
The post-2007 Camry is all about style and comfort. Cabins are roomier while body types are sleeker. Toyota continued to remain environmentally-aware by adding a Camry Hybrid with similar technologies as those used in the popular Prius. Fuel economy for all models have been improved due to a lighter body and better performing tires. The hybrid version was first announced at the 2009 North American International Auto Show and boasted a 2.4-liter engine with 147 hp at 6000 rpm. The newest Camry has a redesigned interior and utilizes all new sheet metal for the exterior. The trim levels for the latest iteration has the highest number in the vehicle's history and includes luxury, sport, and hybrid options. In 2015, the Camry was given the distinction as the car with the most American manufactured parts with 75 percent of the car parts made in the U.S.
When you purchase a Toyota Camry, you can rest assured you're buying a reliable vehicle since over 90 percent of Camrys purchased in the last 10 years are still on the road today. In fact, Toyota Camry is so safe, it won the prestigious 2014 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.